Trends in the renewable energy market and the effects on maintenance – An interview with Graham Scott

Aberdeen / Knottingley, 23 May 2013, RWE Power International – TSG Ferrybridge, published in "All energy"

Graham Scott is Projects Co-ordination Manager at TSG Ferrybridge, the UK maintenance and engineering department of RWE Generation. Mr. Scott as an expert for maintenance solutions in the power generation sector gives insights into recent trends in the renewable energy market and how this affects maintenance projects and technologies.

1. Looking at power generation equipment in today’s market. What would you say are the current developments in maintenance?

As you are probably aware the renewable market in the UK can be quite complex.

Hydro power for example has been around for many years. Some of this plant is very old and will need maintenance support and in some cases potential significant repairs or replants to ensure long term operation.

Despite investment through ROC’s some of the mid range and smaller hydro plant is also getting older and is outside of conventional warranty and OEM service contracts.

The wind energy market is often regarded as a developing market from a maintenance perspective, which presents its own complexities such as geography and remote access. Regarding such diverse and varied plant with a wide geographical spread preventative maintenance support is a key development issue in any long term strategy for operators of wind power plants.

2. What are critical aspects in overhaul projects, especially regarding renewable energy sources like wind and hydro power?

While undertaking overhauls on both wind and hydro power plants at TSG Ferrybridge we found that one of the critical aspects is access to spare parts. Therefore, for certain specialist mechanical components we re-engineer the parts we need, however this is more complex for items such as wind hub bearings. On wind turbines a critical factor also can be having the right maintenance staff suitably trained and available at the right time. Both issues require long term investment in re-engineering and manpower.

3. With regards to past developments in the renewable energy market, what in your opinion are the upcoming trends?

Future developments will see less large scale onshore wind projects, with further smaller units in more diverse locations. With the majority of the UK’s major potential hydro power sites already developed, the main hydro trends will be smaller, and more geographically dispersed sites. This means power plant operators will have to develop innovative approaches to their maintenance strategies.

We cannot forget other emerging UK renewable energy markets also such as Wave, Geothermal, and Solar. Wave technology is a really interesting area, and shares similar maintenance characteristics with hydro and off shore wind, however we probably won’t see a significant impact on the maintenance market in the near future.

One area where we can certainly see significant market growth in the UK is biomass. It surprises me how often this is overlooked!

4. What does this mean for the global energy market and also for your business?

It is very interesting to see the impact renewable technology is having on conventional fossil fuel power plants. In energy markets such as the UK and Germany, it becomes more and more essential to operate flexible assets. This puts greater stress on operating plant,and on the grid stability, which might present more opportunities for renewable energy storage technologies

What this means for any energy supplier is that in order to compete in the market we cannot rely solely on a limited group of specialist OEM’s.

As a maintenance service provider we developed a risk based engineering approach to meet the strategic needs of our customers’ assets, and to reduce their long term maintenance and operating costs.

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